Allergic Rhinitis (‘Hay Fever’)

hatfever2This affects 30% of the population and can last more than 30 years and in some individuals, it can severely affect their quality of life.

The term ‘hay fever’ should strictly speaking be reserved for grass pollen induced allergic rhinitis, however it is often applied to all nasal allergies.

Symptoms include sneezing, nasal blocking, runny itchy nose, itchy red swollen eyes and even itching of the ears and throat. Some sufferers also develop wheezing (asthma) on allergen exposure.

The causes of allergic rhinitis include pollens, house dust mites, fungal spores and animals such as cats, dogs, rabbits and horses.

Seasonal symptoms in the spring are usually related to tree pollens whereas grass pollen causes problems which typically occur in June and July. Symptoms all year round suggest house dust mite allergy but can be caused by cat and dog allergens.

A detailed history is paramount in the identification of an allergic cause with confirmation by allergy skin prick testing to enable correct advice and avoidance. For certain nasal allergies desensitisation is available. Individuals who report nasal issues with strong smells/odours usually have non-allergic rhinitis that can also be treated.

Mild symptoms usually respond to antihistamines and inhaled nasal steroid sprays. Those in whom the symptoms remain troublesome, despite this combination will benefit from a consultation. Specialist advice on the choice of antihistamine, eye drops and the possibility of desensitisation would be discussed. Nasal sprays are often used incorrectly and education on optimal use will enhance efficacy.